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Monday, May 6, 2013

Victims in Boston Marathon Bombings Turn to Crowdfunding for Support

The GiveForward fundraising page for Brittany Loring, 29, who was seriously injured in the bombings at the Boston Marathon. The GiveForward fundraising page for Brittany Loring, 29, who was seriously injured in the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

It was Brittany Loring’s 29th birthday. She and a fellow graduate student at Boston College, Liza Cherney, were making their way to the finish line of the Boston Marathon to meet a runner when the two bombs exploded.

“I fell to the ground,” Ms. Loring recalled in an interview on Monday. “My thought was I had to get out of there. The moment I could stand up, I ran around the corner, onto Exeter. Then I saw myself in the reflection of a store window. I noticed I was bleeding and that I needed help.”

Ms. Loring and Ms. Cherney, both seriously injured, were separated in the chaos. Ms. Loring was rushed to Boston Medical Center in critical condition, with her skull fractured, her left leg torn open and BB pellets embedded in her head and neck. Ms. Cherney was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and is recovering from her wounds.

They are among the more than 250 people wounded in the April 15 explosions whose family and friends have turned to crowdfunding to help them cover the out-of-pocket medical expenses resulting from the attack. Three people, Krystle Campbell, 29, Martin Richard, 8, died in the blasts.

On Monday night, Kenneth R. Feinberg held a town hall meeting for victims and their families, starting the process of divvying up the $28 million raised by One Fund Boston, which was created after the bombings.

But Mr. Feinberg, who oversaw the compensation fund for 9/11 victims, has emphasized that $28 million is not nearly enough to cover the daunting medical costs for many of the victims, as our colleague Abby Goodnough has reported.

To help close the gap, friends and families of some of the victims, including Ms. Loring and Ms. Cherney, are using social media and online charitable giving platforms as tools for both emotional and financial support.

On GiveForward, a Chicago-based start-up that helps people create personalized online pages to raise money for out-of-pocket medical expenses, more than $90,000 has been donated to Ms. Loring, and more than $50,000 to Ms. Cherney.

Ms. Loring said that the words of encouragement that accompanied the donations, from people she has known over the years and strangers from all over the world, had helped her get through the last few weeks.

“My family would read the postings to me every night,” said Ms. Loring, who was discharged from the hospital last week and is now at home in Cambridge, Mass., undergoing therapy as she looks ahead to her graduation this month with a dual degree from Boston College’s law and business schools and a wedding in the fall. “I was so surprised by how many people are reaching out. There are people I’ve never met before. It definitely helps keep things positive, which helps with my recovery.”

More than $1.2 million has been raised for the families of about two dozen victims on GiveForward, which collects the donations through credit and debit cards and passes them on to the beneficiaries after deducting 7 percent for processing fees.

Of that $1.2 million, more than $700,000 was raised for a young couple, Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who were both seriously wounded and ended up in different hospitals.

These pages have become vehicles for Ms. Loring and others to express their gratitude to the people who helped them in the crucial moments after the blasts, and to remember those who were lost that day.

Last week, Brittany Loring met with three men who came to her immediate assistance following the Boston Marathon bombing attack on April 15. Last week, Brittany Loring met with three men who came to her immediate assistance following the Boston Marathon bombing attack on April 15.
Brittany Loring met the young woman who came to her aid following the Boston Marathon attack. Brittany Loring met the young woman who came to her aid following the Boston Marathon attack.

Some of the Web sites, and accompanying Facebook and Twitter accounts, offer a window into the lives and challenges that lie ahead for many of the victims.

On a GoFundMe page for Ron, Karen and Krystara Brassard, the family has posted regular updates and photos. There are photos of the victims at the race before the explosions, followed by the horrifying images from immediately afterward, and then pictures of them on the road to recovery.

The Brassad family is documenting their recovery following the Boston Marathon attack on the GoFundMe platform, raising nearly $30,000 in donations. The Brassad family is documenting their recovery following the Boston Marathon attack on the GoFundMe platform, raising nearly $30,000 in donations.

Other sites, including a fund-raising page for the family of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who died in the bombings, show family members holding on to one another. Martin’s mother and sister were also seriously injured.

One of the most iconic images in the aftermath of the attacks was of Jeff Bauman, 27, a spectator, whose ashen face and bloodied legs were captured in a dramatic photograph as he was being wheeled from the scene.

As of Monday, an online fund-raiser titled “Bucks for Bauman” had brought in more than $745,000 in 19 days from more than 16,000 people.

The campaign was set up by Brooke Gibbs, who identifies herself as a longtime friend of the Baumans and whose brother, John, grew up with Jeff.

As most of you know, due to the horrific event that had taken place at the Boston Marathon this year, Jeff was severely injured. Throughout this difficult time we want to help in every which way we possibly can to get Bauman back on track as soon as possible. Medical bills are going to start rolling in, let’s get a head start on helping out Bauman and his family! Every dollar counts!!

Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dance instructor, and her husband, Adam Davis, were also severely injured in the bombing. They had gone to watch the marathon together; Mr. Davis, an Air Force captain, had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, and Ms. Haslet-Davis had a day off from teaching at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Boston. Captain Davis sustained broken bones and lacerations, and Ms. Haslet-Davis lost her left foot in the blast.

Ms. Haslet-Davis, 32, from Issaquah, Wash., has vowed to dance again, according to local news reports.

To support her efforts, her co-workers at the dance studio started a fund-raising campaign on GoFundMe.com , which is more than halfway to its $400,000 target.

In another case, Celeste Corcoran lost both legs below the knee. Her daughter, Sydney, was severely injured from shrapnel. Fund-raising efforts on their behalf have brought in more than $720,000 toward a $1 million goal.

The Corcorans’ Facebook page shares triumphs of their recovery with their friends, family and online supporters. In photos posted, they are seen in rehabilitation class, walking with crutches or cuddling with the family dog at home. The page also featured a video tribute for Sydney’s 18th birthday on April 23.

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A video tribute for Sydney Corcoran’s 18th birthday in April.

Celeste Corcoran, 47, was cheering on her sister, Carmen Accabo, when the blast hit, she said in an interview with NPR. Sydney was nearby, but neither knew that the other was injured. They awoke side by side in hospital beds at Boston Medical Center.

Nicole Gross, her brother Michael and their sister, Erika Brannock, were at the finish line of the marathon to cheer for their mother, who had trained for months to run in the event. They, too, were athletes, and knew how much their support would mean to her, according to their fund-raising Web site. The explosions went off as they searched the crowd for her.

A local news report showed Ms. Gross, a former University of Tennessee swimmer, on the sidewalk surrounded by other victims, her legs bloodied from a compound fracture.

Then there is the White family: William and Mary Jo White and their son Kevin were seriously injured. Fund-raising for them is taking place through Lawrence Academy, the alma mater of Kevin and another son, Andrew.

For the family of Mr. Downes and Ms. Kensky, the newlywed couple who each lost a leg in the blast, the page has also become a place to give thanks.

In a statement, their parents â€" Katy and Herman Kensky and Deborah and Brian Downes â€" described the strong bond the couple had forged in an interfaith marriage of Judaism and Christianity, with roots that spanned the country: the Downes family is from Massachusetts and the Kensky family from Sacramento. Friends who set up their fund-raising page said the couple tarted dating in 2006.

Our children have asked us to extend their heartfelt condolences to the families of Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Martin Richard, Sean Collier, and to all those who suffered because of this horrible event. Just as our families have been buoyed by the goodwill of friends and strangers, we know too that this generosity of spirit and resources has been extended to others. We hope all the families hurt by this tragedy will join together in support of one another.

The Kensky and Downes families want to echo the many tributes offered to the first responders and the medical and law enforcement communities. The staffs at Boston Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have expertly and compassionately cared for our children; we cannot heap enough praise on the doctors, nurses, aides and others who work in these fine hospitals.

We have been touched by so many good people.